I don’t know many people who don’t have an African Safari high on their bucket list, it is definitely at the top of the bucketlist trips that you all said you wanted to go on when I took my poll on Instagram Stories earlier this year. So when we realized that we had the time and the opportunity to go we booked it.
I work with travel professionals on a regular basis – did you know that I not only oversee social media and digital marketing for a variety of clients including luxury travel brands but that I also work as an IC Ambassador for Embark– a luxury travel agency? More details on that below.
After doing many hours of research we knew we wanted two things – to go to Kruger National Park during this particular time of year (end of August/early September) and we wanted to stay at Royal Malewane. The five-star, luxury lodge that sits on the nearly 35,000 acres ofThornybush Private Game Reserve within the Greater Kruger National Park region, it was the ideal spot for this trip.
Why Royal Malewane:
Royal Malewane unlike any other safari lodge, we found it incredibly intimate – there are only six luxury suites, two Royal suites and one large house, The Africa House, to accommodate larger groups or families on holiday that are on property at the traditional lodge with an additional three villas and one house at the sister property The Farmstead. My full post on The Farmstead will be coming soon!
When we arrived it was a warm welcome from the team, having known the long travel day that we endured they were amazing, whisking us straight to our absolutely spectacular bush dinner.
There we met two wonderful couples who were on their honeymoon and our guides. The intimate, small group setting at Royal Malewane sets them apart from their neighbors, you can feel as though you’re the only ones there or sit fireside with cocktails to connect with the other guests at night and talk about your drive sightings.
Many are unsure on what to expect on a safari, I was drawn to Liz Biden’s über-stylish take on a bush camp – it’s more like a luxurious six-star hotel than a safari lodge for sure. The whimsical décor throughout the property was perfectly done.
The rooms are large, cozy and have huge netted four post beds, high thatched roofs and wrap around decks with savanna views – perfect for elephant viewing!
What is a day like on safari with RM
Here is a quick snapshot at a traditional safari drive day, of course you can always make your own schedule this is simple what we did!
5:30 AM wakeup, get ready, grab coffee
6:00 AM Rudi (our private guide) picks you up for your morning drive
6:00 AM – 9:30 AM Morning Drive
9:30 AM Breakfast (and a morning mimosa of course!)
10:00 AM – 2:00 PM Leisure time, this is the perfect opportunity to take a dip in your infinity pool to catch the giraffes and elephants roaming around or to visit the spa for some TLC
2:00 PM – 3:30 PM Lunchtime!
3:30 PM – 6:30 PM Afternoon drive and right around sunset you’ll enjoy sundowners, which are cocktails on the reserve, it’s spectacular!
6:30 PM – whenever Dinner and drinks. We loved to enjoy a great cocktail by one of the mixologists on the site before dinner.
What is the wildlife like that you’ll see?
Visiting Kruger means that you’ll likely see most of the Big 5 if not all during your safari. We started off our first drive spotting 3 rhinos grazing followed quickly by the pride of lions noshing on a snack.
The sheer volume of elephants that we saw daily was simply put unbelievable with so many new babies in tow too. We saw zebras, giraffes, hippopotamus, and water buffalo fairly regularly as well.
The most surreal sighting continues to be the leopard sightings. We had a few rare instances where we were able to catch them close up, thanks to Rudi and our tracker who were on a mission to ensure we got a chance to see these elusive guys, who typically roam solo, marking their territory quite frequently as they make their way around the reserve.
The most incredible sighting?
This one is without a doubt when we pulled up to a huge watering hole, Rudi and our tracker had found tracks that appeared to go over the ridge onto the other side of the watering hole. The two went to go follow the tracks, they do this and you stay in the car! While they had been gone for no more than three minutes we immediately spotted a leopard peering his head over the ridge. He made his way down to the watering hole, completely (or so we hoped!) unaware of us in the truck. He sipped, looked around, repeated.
After about five minutes the leopard walked to the other side of the watering hole, marked his territory along the way of course, but as he started walking out of sight Rudi and our tracker came over the ridge. To share with them this rare sighting was simply put exciting, Rudi had been trying to capture this exact experience for a month.
Take a look HERE at my packing guide but for the drives these are the must pack items!
- Bug repellent– We purchased THIS ONE and applied it morning noon and night. Apply it daily.
- Sunscreen – Don’t forget the sunscreen! I love this all day wear one that is also Dermatologist approved for my Cystic acne and this one that goes over your make up keeps it in place all day (including the pool!) and is great.
- Hats – Do not, I repeat do not forget a hat, you’ll want one! Do note, Royal Malewane gives you a great cap!
- Layers layers layers – The mornings start off chilly, even when you’re there in December it’ll be cool. Have options to take off (or add on!) over the course of your drives.
One of the biggest questions I’ve been asked about my Safari has been the safety element. Since animals can roam at their leisure on the property I understand the question but I will tell you the Royal team operates like the CIA, they know everything happening on their grounds.
While we didn’t have the opportunity to experience a female leopard roam the main house we did have a number of times where smaller, harmless animals were walking by us, grazing or simply lying around.
On the drives you couldn’t feel safer. Our private guide, Rudi, was the absolute best. I cannot imagine having done a safari without this guy and our tracker was phenomenal too. This duo made sure that we got up close with the animals, often driving through the reserve off-roading to find the animals. They ensured we knew what to do (and what not to do – hint hint there was a lot of “Charlie, you can’t stand up, Charlie you can’t get out of the car” haha)
This was such a surreal experience, on our first drive we happened upon the lion pride finishing off a “snack” – we pulled up to find them calm, unbothered by our presence. Being able to watch them in their natural habitat, feeling the least bit in danger was
Going in shoulder season:
Let me preface this with: There is no “bad” time to go on a safari. It was purely by chance that we wound up going during shoulder season in between the African winter and summer. The weather was a bit cooler and chillier than you will find in December but I don’t think we would have had it any other way.
Should season provided us the best views of the animals – plus the most exciting tracking drives to find them through the bush! This time of year is drier so there is less lush greenery, though in my opinion we went during the best time!
Our initial plan was to fly direct from New York to Johannesburg and then take a smaller plane to Hoedspruit – a mere 25 minute drive over to Royal Malewane. However due to the airline we flew which gave us a 6-hour flight delay out of NYC we missed our connection and had to reroute – this right here is the number one reason why booking with a travel agency is key! We also had the amazing team on site at Royal Malewanewho quickly worked to ensure that we had a car to pick us up and drive us the two hours from the other airport (Neilspruit) to Royal Malewane. Not ideal in the slightest BUT we made it!
How to book the exact trip to Royal Malewane that we had?
Contact me at
How to book the exact trip to Royal Malewane that we had?
Contact me at ashley@tenthonhudson. I’ll work to create the perfect trip itinerary plus ensure that you get special offerings such as upgrades, spa credits, food and beverage credits and more. I design unique itineraries for clients to any of the destinations I’ve been to and work to set you up with a colleague at Embark who has visited those destinations I haven’t had a chance to visit yet to ensure you have an unbelievable trip to wherever you may be going!